Hugging the Mediterranean coastline from the French border to the tip of Tuscany lies a crescent-shape strip of land that makes up the region of Liguria. The pleasures of this region are no secret. Ever since the 19th century, world-weary travelers have been heading for Liguria’s resorts, such as San Remo and Portofino, to enjoy balmy weather and sapphire blue sea. Beyond the beach, the stones and tile of fishing villages, small resort towns, and proud old port cities bake in the sun, and hillsides are fragrant with the scent of bougainvillea and pines.

Liguria is really two coasts. First, the “white sand” stretch west of Genoa known as the Riviera di Ponente (Setting Sun), is studded with fashionable resorts, many of which, like San Remo, have seen their heydays fade but continue to entice visitors with palm-fringed promenades and gentle ways. The rockier, more rugged, but also more colorful fishing-village-filled stretch to the southeast of Genoa, known as the Riviera di Levante (Rising Sun), extends past the posh harbor of Portofino to the ever popular villages of the Cinque Terre.

The province’s capital, Genoa, is Italy’s busiest port, an ancient center of commerce, and one of history’s great maritime powers. Despite its rough exterior, it is an underrated gem filled with architectural delights, Italy’s largest historical center, and a sense of “real Italy” that has become hard to come by in many of the country’s more popular cities.